Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Tale of Barbara of Mníšek (I/II)

     In the game reserve behind the valley which leads the stream, there is a glade in one spot and in it a stone cairn overgrown with dark moss--a grave in the forest. The mossy initials B v M, which stand for Barbara of Mníšek, are carved in one stone, and a date of 1770. It is said that back then, when there was no glade but just the deep and thick forest, that this was where the eighty year-old Barbara of Mníšek died, she who was a friend of the Empress Maria Theresa, as she was walking with a stick or a gun. Barbara loved the forests to her last moment and spent her afternoons in them. The chronicler tells us that Barbara of Mníšek died that year in a castle in a soft bed, because her legs had become paralyzed and she was only buried in the forest under a cairn because she loved the woods and had left instructions to that effect in her will. But the circumstance that the chronicler scarcely mentioned, but the people of these days heard from their ancestors (which their ancestors had told them) and which has remained in the knowledge of the village down to the present day: that the tale of Barbara of Mníšek's death was fraudulent. Barbara of Mníšek had been buried alive under her cairn as a punishment, since one of her ancestors had a hand in the assassination of Count Waldstein, and that mistake had terrible consequences for the whole forest and mainly for the people who went walking in the reserve.

     Storms used to come up in the woods even when the day was clear and cloudless all around, and something wildly flew among the trees, whistling and moaning and following and frightening wayfarers. But when Maria Theresa died ten years later and her son Josef II. took the throne, a man of letters was said to have appeared in the village, perhaps the teacher from the newly-founded one-room schoolhouse, who had heard enough of these terrors in the woods and said that he would stop it. One day he set out for the cairn. What he did there no one knew, but the next day he proclaimed in the village that Barbara of Mníšek's haunting was at an end. That she had been sent from this world once and for all, and that no one should believe in her or think of her any more. And they say it was true that the strange storms in the reserve ceased, at least those when elsewhere it was clear, the normal kind remaining, and the terrifying flights and whistling ceased as well; all was quiet. Nevertheless, people in the village soon began to miss Barbara of Mníšek and, almost as if they could not say goodbye to their ghost, they began to claim that Barbara of Mníšek was only calmer, but that she still existed in unspoiled nature, and they especially made that claim once the man of letters was gone, half-chased out of the village, since he bothered the people about the scholarly progress of their children and interrupted the field work.

     Barbara of Mníšek then came out of her cairn on peaceful strolls throughout the forest, and stopped the forest creatures, talking with them about various things, such as edicts of tolerance and the fact that Maria Theresa was dead and that her son would soon spend all the money which she had wisely saved during her reign in the state's coffers, and that he was even abolishing seminaries and monasteries. Some of the stags tossed their antlers and said it was the end; but the deer, as a rule, only smiled and spoke their own minds. That Josef would not rule for long. Barbara nodded her head and said "I think so too, I think so too," and proclaimed under her breath that she would cause it as well. "All these novelties that are going on now would not have been possible under the Empress," she would say bitterly, "the Empress used to usher in the new and abolish the old, but the nonsense he's doing, (by whom she meant Josef) she would not have done." Ten years later Josef died and soon the works of his reign went to nought, and then Barbara said: "So you see what I can do ," and disappeared, satisfied, back into her cairn. She predicted short reigns for his successor. When his successor died in two years, she again told people whom she met: "So you see what I am capable of," again disappeared in satisfaction into her cairn, and a frost passed over the backs of the people. When they executed the daughter of the dead Empress in France, she went about in a black veil and prophesied the end of the world.


Random Fuks; I just translated this today. Once again, double your money back if you've ever read this before. It's...sort of usual for him, at least sort of usual for the Fuks who's not writing about Holocaust-era Czechoslovakia.

Poor (textually-un-named)Leopold II.

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